A Return to Caveman Times?

So easy a caveman can do it"¦.Who would have guessed that what started as a funny tag line to a GEICO ad campaign would lead to a budding pop-culture hit? (My favorite line from those commercials is when the caveman sitting on his therapist’s couch says "my mother’s on the line, I’ll put her on speaker.")

Perhaps to appease his anger, GEICO built the Caveman a killer crib and later ABC stepped in and gave the Caveman his own television show. Let’s start by looking at interest in his crib and then examine interest in the TV show.

The "crib" itself appears to be a standard bachelor pad, complete with flat screen TV, wet bar, and a dart board (with a picture of the GEICO gecko hanging on it). For three weeks in August (8/11 — 8/31) there was a significant spike in people visiting the Caveman’s crib — at least virtually — with 400,000 people spending an average of 7 minutes on the site. (Just for reference, 400K is more people in one month than popular sites like Wholefoods.com, Lexus.com, Barackobama.com, Hsbcdirect.com or Louisvuitton.com regularly receive.)

Looking back to August, we tried to uncover what drove all that traffic to the site. To start with, over 60% of all people came from search or direct entry (a person typing the domain in their web browser). This is an abnormally high percentage and suggests people were seeing or hearing about the Caveman (possibly through a commercial for his upcoming show on ABC, talk around the water cooler at work, or an email from a friend) that prompted them to visit the site. Whatever the cause, once they visited, they typically didn’t go back.

This raises the question, what is GEICO getting in return for setting up the caveman in such a great pad? According to Compete data,

  • 10% of visitors to the Caveman’s crib also visited GEICO’s website in the same month.
  • Considering only 2.6% of the entire Internet Browser Population visits GEICO in a given month, people who visit Cavemanscrib.com are 4X as likely to visit GEICO as the average internet user.
  • For those visitors to GEICO.com who had also been on Cavemanscrib.com in the same month, approximately 20% were existing GEICO customers and 80% were potential new policy prospects.

It seems like the Caveman is trying to send some new business over to GEICO. However, it doesn’t look like it’s working out. Only 1,500 (or about 4% of prospects) submitted a quote for auto insurance. This 4% prospect to quote rate is well below GEICO’s average of 28%.

I doubt that the lower prospect to quote rate is much of a concern to the folks at GEICO. They don’t appear to view the caveman as anything but a branding campaign. In fact, in a March 5, 2007 WSJ article, which announced the creation of the ABC Caveman pilot, Ted Ward, GEICO’s head of marketing said, "”We are excited to have an opportunity to do brand extension. As a marketer you have to look for new and unusual ways to get your brand out there because of the large amount of messaging clutter and media fragmentation.”

Mr. Ward and GEICO have been extremely successful at promoting the GEICO brand. What started as a single TV commercial became a series of commercials. This in turn led to a micro site that spiked with 400,000 visitors and finally a primetime sitcom with over 100,000 streaming internet viewers.

Perhaps this is exactly what GEICO’s marketing department had in mind when they said "you have to look for new and unusual ways to get your brand out there."

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